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by Agatha Gilmore | October 01, 2011

She wakes up at 6 a.m., her inbox filled with 27 new e-mails from the night before. The caterer has been booked but needs a list of preferences, the florist is providing estimates, the host wants to know about upgrading hotel linens. There's a meeting with a photographer that afternoon, and the venue staff need a workable day-of timetable.

Sound familiar?

But this isn't necessarily describing the typical day of a meeting planner. It's also the daily grind of a wedding planner. And while the purposes of the events are very different, the fundamental goals are the same: to meet or exceed the expectations of the hosts and attendees.

"Weddings and corporate events are so different -- but they're also so similar," affirms Cindy Shanholtz, owner of Chicago-based Effortless Events. Brides want to have a meaningful gathering that, in effect, marks the beginning of an exciting new phase in their lives -- and so do corporations, she says.

On the following pages, wedding planners offer their tips on creating remarkable, creative, one-of-a-kind events -- all while dealing with demanding or jittery clients and limited budgets.

Define expectations
Before a wedding planner can start getting creative, he or she first must sit down with the couple and find out who they are, what they're thinking and what their priorities are for the big day. After all, creativity needs a defined framework within which to thrive.

"I ask them a lot of questions about what they want their event to look, smell and taste like, how they want their guests to feel, what's important to them. I'll get a sense of the client," says Michael Radolinski, owner and principal event planner at New York City-based Michael Henry Events Creative LLC.

The same approach, of course, applies to corporate events. The corporate planner must fully understand the company's culture and envision clear goals for the gathering -- whether it's boosting team morale or increasing sales.
David Stone
This is also key for budgeting purposes. Wedding planners agree the best way to satisfy their customers financially is to allocate money according to their priorities. David Stone, director of catering and conference services at La Posada de Santa Fe (N.M.), a Rock Resort, says he starts out by jotting down absolutely every idea and desire the couple has, along with the potential cost. Then he scale backs from there according to the couple's priorities. So if the couple indicates that music is the element that's most important to them, he will allot more money to the music budget. That way it's all out in the open, there are no surprises and the couple is getting the most bang for their bucks.